In the early morning hours of June 29, a car carrying three adults and two children traveled down U.S. Highway 90 in Mississippi heading towards New Orleans. At approximately 2:25 a.m., the car crashed into the rear of a tractor trailer that slowed to spray mosquito fogger. The car underrode the semi, the trailer sheered through the car’s passenger compartment instantly killing the three adults in the front seat. The children fortunately survived the accident with minor injuries.
A truck “underride” collision occurs when a passenger car crashes into the rear of the tractor trailer and slides underneath the trailer. As a result, the trailer crushes or sheers away the top of the automobile, often killing the passengers. Victims who are not killed during underride accidents are likely to suffer severe brain trauma or extensive facial fractures. In litigating Maryland truck accidents, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have researched the underride accidents and ways to prevent them.
Readers of a certain generation will remember that the accident described above was the terrible crash that killed actress, Jayne Mansfield, her fiancée and driver in 1967. If the truck had been equipped with rear guards, Mansfield’s car may not have slid underneath the trailer and the actress and her companions may not have been killed. Rear guards or underride guards are the bars that hang below a trailer and have been required on tractor trailers since 1953. More recently, however, the federal government determined how to best configure underride guards. In 1998, after years of testing, the National Federal Highway Administration released standards regarding the proper configuration for rear impact guards on trailers.
Under federal regulations, rear guards must extend the entire width of the trailer, must be no more than 22 inches off the pavement, and must not be more than 12 inches from the rear of the trailer. Properly constructed and configured, underride guards are capable of absorbing a force of over 4,000 pounds per foot. This translates to the force generated by a passenger vehicle traveling approximately 30 miles per hour.
Underride guards, however, do not protect cars traveling at high rates of speed or passenger vehicles that strike a trailer from the side. As always, Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers reminds its clients to drive with care at all times, but particularly around eighteen wheelers.